Latest Reading Report Tracks Trends of Reading in K–12

K-2 students tend to enjoy books with poetry and rhymes, putting Dr. Seuss at or near the top of their reading lists. For grades 3-5, sports and recreation take center stage. As students begin the move into middle school, interpersonal relationships are big. And as students go into high school, they continue showing interest in sports and focus on assigned reading. Those are the broad findings of this year's "What Kids are Reading, 2020 Edition," the Renaissance report that tabulates student reading. The latest report used data from the 2018-2019 school year.

The results were drawn from data generated by two services produced by the company: Accelerated Reader, which tracks books and articles in both print and digital form "that students have read from start to finish"; and myON, which tracks student reading on a personalized digital library platform.

Latest Reading Report Tracks Trends of Reading in K–12

The most read books by grade level for the 2018-2019 school year were:

  • Kindergarten: Biscuit Series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

  • Grade 1: Dr. Seuss Collection by Dr. Seuss

  • Grade 2: Dr. Seuss Collection by Dr. Seuss

  • Grade 3: Dog Man Series by Dav Pikey

  • Grade 4: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney

  • Grade 5: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney

  • Grade 6: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney

  • Grade 7: Giver Quartet by Lois Lowrey

  • Grade 8: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

  • Grade 9: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Grade 10: Night by Elie Wiesel

  • Grade 11 The Crucible by Arthur Miller

  • Grade 12: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

However, top books varied by state. While Hi! Fly Guy was number one in Iowa for grade 1, in Massachusetts it was Seven Blind Mice. While Virginia sixth graders pushed Wonder into the top spot, for Louisiana it was Hatchet. And more California 11th graders chose The Great Gatsby, while in Michigan it was Of Mice and Men.

The report also noted that as students move through school, they tend to spend less time reading nonfiction, in spite of the fact that National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading guidelines suggest the opposite. In grades K-2 they spent about 48 percent of their reading time on nonfiction, which jumped to 54 percent for grades 3-5. NAEP guidelines suggest that by grade 4, about half of reading should be nonfiction. The amount of time students in grades 6-8 spent reading nonfiction dropped to 52 percent even though NAEP advises about 55 percent. And in high school, even though NAEP recommends that 70 percent of reading be nonfiction, in reality higher schoolers spent just 43 percent of their reading time on that.

The number of topics students show interest in through their reading practices also narrows as they age. While grade K-2 students explored an average of 22 topics (meaning they've passed a quiz for more than a single book on a given subject) and students in grades 3-5 explored 24, by grades 6-8, that had dropped to 15 and by grades 9-12 it was nine topics. As the report noted, as students "read both deeply and widely--multiple books within and across different topics--they solidify that content knowledge while also strengthening comprehension skills." Top nonfiction topics across all grades were animals, science and biographies or autobiographies. In fiction, it was animals, family life and humor.

"Providing students with reading materials that are culturally relevant, appealing and accessible cannot be overstated," said Gene Kerns, vice president and chief academic officer at Renaissance, in a statement. "What Kids Are Reading provides a unique glimpse into what other students are reading and hopefully sparks new discoveries for others."

The report is available with registration on the Renaissance website. Educators can also create a custom report of the findings by entering state, grade and difficulty level on the same webpage. The company said it would be hosting a webinar to discuss the latest findings on Mar. 18, 2020 at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.